Among watch enthusiasts, the name Antiquorum has long become synonymous with counterfeits and malpractice. In their latest catalogue for their “Important Modern & Vintage Timepieces” auction taking place on April 25, 2021 in Hong Kong, Antiquorum presented a rare Rolex “Big Crown” Submariner Ref. 5510 with elusive 3-6-9 (Explorer) dial and case number 362062. One look at the dial suffices to understand its origins. Luciano Rinaldi. That’s right, Rinaldi did not limit himself to faking vintage and Pre Vendôme Panerai – before the sketchy Panerai came along, Rinaldi had already faked everything else, Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Longines, you name it. Remember the albino GMTs with weird PanAm matriculation numbers on the back, or the Omega Seamaster 600s with Comex Janus 2 engravings? Rinaldi was the mastermind behind all of these fakes. Panerai was an easy target, a watch brand without discernible history that allowed him and his son Samuele to wreak havoc as they pleased. Antiquorum and Rinaldi worked hand in glove since the mid 1990s.
Lot 249: Rolex Ref. 5510, “Submariner”, “Big Crown”, 362062
A great looking watch at first glance but totally fake. Not just the dial, the case is fake too.
Auction link: LOT 249 – Rolex Ref. 5510, self-winding, diver’s, centre-seconds; “Submariner”; so-called “James Bond” “Big Crown”; stainless steel (Antiquorum)
One look between the lugs makes this very clear. First, the typeface is completely off. Secondly, Modèle Déposé, really? That is not a thing on Ref. 5510. This type of designation was discontinued years ealier. As you can see in the comparison below, the original watches featured only the case number between the lugs at 6 o’clock.
Between the lugs at 12 o’clock is no better. Again, the typeface is completely off and instead of Registered Design, the case features long discontinued Brevet + engravings.
The inside of the caseback is completely off too. Rolex watches from this era usually bore a rough production date on the inside of the caseback. In case of this unique Ref. 5510 batch, extending from case number 361800 to 362299 (500 pieces), the date was 1.1958 which stands for first quarter of 1958.
The present watch is by no means a good fake. It is hard to believe that anyone, let alone the experts of an auction house, could fall for something this.
Blast from the past
Antiquorum sold several similar watches in the past. The “Big Crown” Ref. 5510 below which was sold on March 28, 2008 in New York, featured the same kind of Rinaldi dial as the subject of this article. The watch sold for USD 61,360. That is quite a sum for 2008, especially considering that at least the dial is fake.
Auction link: Lot 329 – So-Called “James Bond”, Ranger Dial Rolex, Ref. 5510 (Antiquorum)
Here is a link to an interesting exchange on the Vintage Rolex Forum where this type of Rinaldi dial was discussed:
Link: What do you think about Lot 447 proposed by… (VRF)
Later that year, again in New York, Antiquorum sold a Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513 with a slightly different Rinaldi dial for USD 50,400. Again, an incredible amount of money for a 5513 in 2008. Obviously, those Rinaldi 3-6-9 Explorer dials were believed to be genuine at the time.
Auction link: LOT 474 – Ref. 5513, Explorer Dial (Antiquorum)
Several similar pieces had already been sold by Antiquorum earlier:
2007: LOT 206 – Ref. 5513, “Ranger Dial Submariner” Rolex (Antiquorum)
2004: LOT 195 – “Ranger Dial” Rolex Submariner, Ref. 5513 (Antiquorum)
2004: LOT 386 – Rolex, “Submariner”, Ref. 5513 (Antiquorum)
2002: LOT 15 – Rolex, “Submariner”, Ref. 5512 (Antiquorum)
In 2017, Antiquorum sold once again a Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513 with fake Rinaldi Explorer dial but this time the dial was properly declared. Well sorts of as they stated the dial was reprinted when in reality it was completely fake. Antiquorum disclosed these facts as the cat was long out of the bag. The watch fetched only CHF 12,500.
Auction link: LOT 585 – Rolex Submariner 5513 Explorer so called “Rinaldi dial” pointed crown guard (Antiquorum)
At the time of the sale, people were shocked to see Antiquorum openly offering a watch with a fake dial. The public opinion was that counterfeits should be taken out of circulation and not be reinserted into the market. One never knows where these things might end up and how much damage they could still cause.
The watches listed in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. Submariners with this type of dials were often privately sold among collectors. Rinaldi fooled all of them. The financial damage caused was huge. Collectors and auctioneers soon became aware of Rinaldi’s countless scams and his reputation and name went down the drain, so much so, he disappeared from the face of the earth. After his death in 2016, his son Samuele inherited a “watch collection” consisting of several hundred pieces, a huge pile of unsellable garbage. This is when Rinaldi fakes started reappearing on the market.
Eager to sell everything in one lot, Samuele Rinaldi sent pictures of his “collection” to vintage watch dealers around the globe. Nobody was interested as most watches were fake or made-up. The two “Big Crowns” seen below were part of Rinaldi’s infamous photo gallery. The dial graphics are exactly the same as on the fake 5510 offered at Antiquorum.
If you want to learn how deep the Rinaldi rabbit hole goes, I suggest you read the following article from 2018.
Read more: The Garibaldi Chronicles
Thank you for your interest.
Horological forensic at it’s best! Great job Jose
I had the misfortune to run into the Rinaldis – pere et fils – about 20 years ago in Arezzo and when I had bad feelings about one of their watches I stood up to walk away and Samuele completely lost his temper and started screaming at me at the top of his voice. It consider that I got away very, very lightly.
Top notch mate! As usual!
All the best,
one question: a 5510/5513 with “explorer dial” is always fake, or is there something in this dial the make it fake?
No, both references can be found with proper explorer dials bu the dial of 362062 is fake, as is the watch case. Look at the weird “serifes” on all markers. Everything else is wrong too.
This iss a great blog
Hi Jose Pereztroika,
I discover your website after looking after informations about Mr. Luciano Rinaldi. In fact, I had serious doubt regarding a Blancpain Air Command owned by Jacques Coustaud (famous French seadiver in the 60s, 70s). After analysing the watch for sale at Antiquorum on 2017, this watch comes again at Bonhams Paris on May 26th 2023. I have written an article for those interested (https://www.synchroniseur.com/marques-horlogeres/blancpain-air-command-du-commandant-cousteau/) and mentioned your name with a link to this article.
Hope it helps the community as, after Rolex and Panerai you mention here, now it is Blancpain affected by counterfeit vintage watches.